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Achieving Progress Without Addressing the Details: Capacity Building Negotiations at Cancun

Underwater cabinet meeting held in the Maldives, to call attention to climate change in small island states. © Divers Association of Maldives

Article by Guest Contributor: Natalie Antonowicz

During the second week of the Cancun Conference, developing countries continued to express their unique vulnerability to climate change, and push for increased involvement and assistance from developed countries. Some progress was indeed made on this issue, but concerns remain about the ability of vulnerable states to address climate change.

Fiji, a member of the Alliance of Small Island States pushed for “an effective international cooperation mechanism that provides finance for climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as capacity building and technology transfer”. Fiji, and its allies, have voiced concern about the slow pace of progress on delivering capacity building assistance to small island states. As a result of their poverty and ecologically sensitive locations, small island states are particularly vulnerable to the environmental and economic impacts of climate change. Tuvalu has called upon the Adaptation Fund Board “to provide greater capacity building for islands that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change”.

Sweden and South Korea have voiced interest in adaptation partnerships and efforts. However, negotiations persist about how funding for adaptation, under the Ad Hoc Working Group-Long-Term Cooperative Agreement, is to be handled. Generally, developing countries favour integrating the management of both adaptation and mitigation funds into one institution, while developed countries prefer separate institutions.

Presently, many small island states are unable to fulfill the criteria necessary to receive funding from the Adaptation Fund Board, and are urging reforms to the board, that would make their qualification for funding easier. Tuvalu’s deputy Prime Minister stated: “[w]e also need capacity building in actually implementing projects in accordance to the criteria of the Board”, and that vulnerable countries require access to adaptation funding. Tuvalu and its allies argue that the criteria currently in place prevent them from completing projects such as seawalls that will protect them from rising sea levels. As such, small island states have called for a broader scope, in terms of the eligibility of projects for Adaptation Fund monies.

At Cancun, a new Green Climate Fund was established, for the purpose of aiding developing countries address climate change. Additionally, the USD100 billion fund to aid developing countries in addressing climate change was renewed at Cancun. A committee was also created to address the details of the fund’s operation.

The agreement signed in Cancun “recognizes that well-intentioned efforts to address climate change can result in adverse impacts, and establishes a new process to consider those impacts”. Specifically, respecting human rights is noted as key in the process of combating climate change. Essentially, a link between environmental degradation and human rights has been forged at Cancun.

Pundits have labeled the progress made at Cancun a reaffirmation of the multilateral process. As president of the Alliance of Small Island States, Grenada has voiced its general support for the draft agreement produced at Cancun. Karl Hood, the country’s environment and foreign affairs minister stated that [i]t is not perfect and it is not a done deal, but let us accept it and let’s move forward”.

Overall, the second week of the Cancun Conference represents progress towards capacity building for vulnerable developing countries. However, details pertaining to funding criteria and fund management remain undecided.

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